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Recent uni grad? Here’s how to use your soft skills to open the door to an environmental job

If you’ve recently graduated from uni, you’ve now got an impressive qualification to your name. But is it enough to get you a job with an environmental organisation where everyone else wants to work, too?

While you’ve just spent years working to develop your knowledge, once you’ve left uni, you’re likely to find that your transferrable skills – also known as ‘soft’ or ‘people’ skills – are just as important to prospective employers.

According to a recent survey by psychometric assessment specialist Talent Q, nine out of ten employers believe graduates lack transferrable skills – while 70 percent of graduates mistakenly believe being good at the technical aspects of their job is enough to succeed.

So if you want to work at an environmental organisation – where the abilities to both connect with people and take initiative are hallmarks of many positions – you’ll need to know how to recognise your transferrable skills and highlight them in your job applications.

So what are transferrable skills?

Transferrable skills are developed in one setting and can be, well, transferred to another. They’re the emotional and social competencies that drive your relationships with others and your moral compass – the things you rarely learn from a university degree.

Some of the soft skills most valued by employers include:

  • creativity
  • written and spoken communication;
  • problem-solving;
  • critical thinking;
  • interpersonal and relationship building;
  • organisational and time management skills;
  • teamwork;
  • initiative and self-motivation;
  • ability to take responsibility;
  • ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines;
  • flexibility and adaptability;
  • leadership; and
  • listening.

Why you need to identify your transferrable skills

If you don’t have much (or, indeed, any) experience in a role, your soft skills can effectively show an employer the breadth and depth of your value as a worker.

Many employers increasingly value these skills, with 74 percent saying that retaining staff with strong soft skills is a concern for their organisation.

Environmental organisation Planet Ark’s HR advisor Rebecca Gilling says she always looks for strong soft skills when interviewing candidates.

“One of the things we always ask about is a candidate’s ability to work in teams as well as autonomously,” she says.

“In their responses to key selection questions, we’ll ask for some examples of where they’ve used their team-building skills, initiative, problem-solving – those sorts of things – in their previous work.”

Having a clear sense of your transferrable skills can also help you build self-confidence, recognise the value of your skills (many people undervalue their abilities), prepare strong job applications, perform better in interviews, and build your skillset by being able to identify where you’re lacking.

How to identify your transferrable skills

It’s up to you to present these skills to your interviewers – but how?

Planet Ark’s Gilling says matching them to the needs of employers is key.

“Because we’re a small team of only 20 staff, we have a lot of positions that are not neatly packaged in one area,” she says.

“For example, I work across a number of areas – HR, audio-visual, and I’m also the assistant to the CEO – so we’re always looking for candidates with a wide range of skills.”

Applying for jobs at environmental not-for-profits can also be a very competitive process, so properly highlighting your transferrable skills can give you the edge over other candidates.

First, list all the significant events and activities you’ve been involved in throughout your post-school life. From uni and part-time jobs to volunteer activities and your personal life, no activity is too minor. If you’re struggling, you could also include part-time jobs or volunteering you did during high school.

Then for each event, write down the skills and qualities you demonstrated.

For example, if you volunteered at your university’s student newspaper, you mightn’t think that’s very relevant to your application for a fundraising role at Greenpeace. But you would likely have developed skills in teamwork, time management, meeting deadlines, written and spoken communication, and more – important skills to highlight in any job application.

Planet Ark’s Gilling agrees that communication is a critical transferrable skill in environmental not-for-profits.

“Attention to detail in writing is hugely important and is transferrable across a whole range of areas,” she says. “In our organisation, being able to write well is pretty much key to most positions.”

If you need a bit of a helping hand thinking of your soft skills, you could also find a checklist of them – like this one from Griffith University – and complete a comprehensive ‘inventory’ of your skills.

Once you’ve determined your transferrable skills, you need to add them into your application – you could highlight them in your CV, discuss them in your responses to key selection criteria, and, of course, talk about them in your interview.

Lack of industry-specific experience a barrier to landing your dream job at an environmental organisation? Not necessarily. Employers are often looking for potential – and to show them yours, don’t forget your transferrable skills.

This post is based in part on a resource published by Griffith University.


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